After The Close - The U.S. stock market struggled a bit today, after advancing for several consecutive sessions. At the close of the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 13 points; the broader S&P 500 Index was down four points; and the NASDAQ had dropped a more significant 34 points. Market breadth was mixed on the NYSE, while decliners took the lead on the technology-heavy NASDAQ. Most market sectors headed lower. There was particular weakness in the technology area. The healthcare sector, and the biotechnology names in particular, encountered selling. However, the energy group made progress, even as the price of crude oil dipped a bit. The industrials also put in a decent session.

Technically, the stock market has advanced sharply over the past week. Consequently, a small pause was likely in order. Stocks have been quite volatile lately, and it remains to be seen if the bulls can push the averages higher from here. Sentiment is still supportive. The VIX rose slightly to 13.31 today. However, it should be noted that this is still a very tame level.

Traders received limited economic news this morning. Specifically, new home sales came in at 384,000 units, annualized, for the month of March. This showing fell well short of expectations, and was also lower than the February figure. Tomorrow, we will get a look at the employment situation, as the weekly initial and continuing jobless claims are released. For perspective, weekly claims have been running just over 300,000, and have made considerable progress over the past year. Durable goods orders for the month of March will also be reported.

Meanwhile, traders received a large batch of first-quarter earnings announcements today. Shares of Procter & Gamble (PG - Free P&G Stock Report) slipped, in response. The consumer staples giant issued a decent report, but investors were concerned about the outlook. Boeing (BA - Free Boeing Stock Report) shares were up slightly, as the aerospace leader put out a good set of figures. Meanwhile, investors spent much of the day eagerly awaiting the report from bellwether technology leader Apple (AAPL), due out after the closing bell today. The stock eased modestly in anticipation. - Adam Rosner

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.


12:00 PM EDT - The major U.S. equity averages traded modestly lower for much of the morning, as investors digested a mixed bag of earnings reports from Corporate America and very disappointing new home sales data for the month of March (more on each below). As we reach the midday hour on the East Coast, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the NASDAQ, and the S&P 500 Index are 15, 18, and two points lower, respectively, with investors using the aforementioned events to take some profits in the market. Overall, declining issues are outnumbering advancers on the NASDAQ, but the reverse is holding true on the Big Board, which suggests that it has been a mixed performance for equities today.

As noted, the big news for market participants was a much weaker-than-expected new home sales report for the month of March. Specifically, the Commerce Department reported new home sales of 384,000 for March, which was 14.5% below the revised February rate of 449,000 units and 13.3% below the prior-year figure. The March tally also fell well short of the consensus expectation of about 450,000 new sales. The stocks of the major homebuilding companies, including D.R. Horton (DHI) and Lennar (LEN), which have suffered heavy losses already this year are lower today on the home sales data.

Meantime, we are in the midst of the first-quarter reporting season, and those reports are having an impact on the direction of trading, particularly for the Dow 30. Within the index of 30 bellwether companies, the news was mixed for the blue-chip companies today. Of note, shares of AT&T (T - Free AT&T Stock Report) are lower after the telecommunications giant issued a negative revenue forecast. Conversely, the stock of Boeing (BA - Free Boeing Stock Report) is higher after the aerospace and defense behemoth beat expectations at both the top and bottom lines. Fellow Dow-30 component Procter & Gamble (PG - Free Procter & Gamble Stock Report) also posted better-than-expected earnings, but its stock is relatively unchanged thus far today.

From a sector perspective, it is mostly down arrows for the top-10 groups. The biggest laggard is the telecommunications sector, which is being pressure by the aforementioned negative news from AT&T. The healthcare stocks also are receiving a good deal of attention today, as several big biotechnology concerns, including Amgen (AMGN), Biogen (BIIB), and Gilead Sciences (GILD), reported their latest quarterly results. So far, the reaction has been negative toward the biotech sector. On the positive side, the energy and utilities issues are moving higher, as we enter the second half of the trading day.

Looking ahead to the remainder of the day, the investment community is gearing up for the latest quarterly results from technology behemoth Apple (AAPL), which is due out after the close of trading. The stock is currently off a few dollars ahead of the much-anticipated report, as is the stock of one of its main suppliers ARM Holdings (ARMH). The technology stocks, along with the biotechnology, have been very volatile this year after a terrific showing in 2013. Speaking of technology stocks, noted hedge fund manager David Einhorn said in his recent letter to shareholders that he believes that we are in the midst of the second technology bubble in the last 15 years, and his firm Greenlight Capital is currently shorting a number of technology stocks. The tech-heavy NASDAQ is now down slightly more than 5% since hitting its 2014 closing high on March 5th.

And last, but certainly not least, the ongoing geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe are once again on the minds of investors. Specifically, some investors are a bit unnerved by reports that U.S. troops have moved into Poland to undergo some military exercises. The close proximity to the Ukraine has investors a bit skittish. The situation in Eastern Europe remains fluid and certainly has the potential to raise the market’s volatility at any moment. Stay tuned.   - William G. Ferguson 

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.   


Stocks to Watch from The Survey Once again, investors have their hands full digesting a bevy of earnings reports from companies across a variety of industries. Some of the biggest winners, at least judging from pre-market movements, are footwear company Skechers (SKX) and Sanmina (SANM), a provider of manufacturing services. Both operators delivered better-than-expected financials, and the two issues are up notably ahead of the bell, as a result. Other stocks moving higher in the premarket on earnings news include staffing company Manpower (MAN), airline operator Delta (DAL), chemicals company Dow (DOW), restaurant operator Yum! Brands (YUM), aerospace and defense company Boeing (BAFree Boeing Stock Report), and beverage maker Dr Pepper Snapple (DPS).

It was not all good news, however, and Wall Street appeared to take issue with results and/or outlooks from telecommunications heavyweight AT&T (TFree AT&T Stock Report), consumer goods maker Procter & Gamble (PGFree Procter & Gamble Stock Report), LED light manufacturer Cree (CREE), telecommunications equipment company Juniper Networks (JNPR), medical devices maker Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), software developer VMware (VMW), and tobacco company Reynolds American (RAI). All of these equities are indicating lower openings this morning, with CREE and ISRG showing considerable weakness. – Matthew E. Spencer

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

Before The Bell - Wall Street entered last week, a holiday shortened four-day affair, seemingly on the cusp of a long-awaited and likely overdue stock market correction. What has transpired since that shaky time has been anything but such a reversal. In fact, stocks have steamed full speed ahead, with the latest session one of the better ones, as the equity market posted a wire-to-wire win throwing off much of the prior session's hesitation in the process.

All told, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, boosted by some reasonably strong quarterly earnings performances in recent sessions, proceeded to maintain a low triple-digit gain for much of the day, with the blue-chip composite topping out at mid-session with a roughly 115-point advance, before some profit taking ensued during the final hour to pare a still-formidable advance somewhat. All told, the Dow gained 65 points on the day. The NASDAQ, meantime, boosted by a stellar gain in Netflix (NFLX) shares, with that high-profile entertainment giant securing a seven-percent gain, or better than 24 points on the day, after showing strong subscriber growth and better earnings. That stock had been hit hard especially in the NASDAQ's recent pullback. Elsewhere, the health care group was a standout once again on heightened merger news and speculation, while the aforementioned Netflix gave the NASDAQ a boost on the day. Conversely, lower oil prices hurt the energy stocks.

For the most part, the market's recent rally has been jump started by modestly better-than-expected first-quarter earnings. It is not that such metrics are all that compelling; it is just that expectations had been so low that the bar has not been hard to climb above. In addition, we are getting better economic tidings, as well. To wit, we saw a solid 0.8% gain in the index of leading indicators for March on Monday. That increase was slightly better than forecast. Moreover yesterday, the National Association of Realtors, a key trade group, reported that sales of existing homes were essentially flat in March (4.59 million on an annualized basis versus 4.60 million in February). But that was a bit better than the 4.57 million sales total forecast. Also prices rose; sales of distressed homes fell once again; and inventories of unsold properties remained below the average level. Our sense is that this sector will strengthen going forward, following some slippage late last year and early in 2014 on rising mortgage rates and a difficult winter, respectively.

Now, this morning, the Commerce Department will weigh in at 10:00 (EDT) with monthly data on new home sales. That is a smaller and much more volatile market than housing re-sales; a small gain is the forecast, as this sector seeks to rebound from some earlier modest backtracking. We will subsequently get data on orders for durable goods tomorrow morning, Here, an uptick is the widely held view.

But the primary driver for the market will continue to be earnings--at least for the next fortnight. And, as noted here, the news has been better than expected for the most part, though not necessarily all that good. We expect this relatively benign pattern to again prevail today and over the rest of the week, as much of Corporate America reports its results for the latest three-month stretch.

Looking at the rest of the picture, stocks in Asia were generally mixed overnight, while in Europe so far this morning, the principal bourses are showing a somewhat negative bias on escalating concerns in Ukraine. That situation thus far defies solution. On our shores, meanwhile, the futures are posting moderate losses, with the S&P 500 Index futures off by almost four points, while the NASDAQ futures are heading lower to the tune of nearly 10 points, as investors await further earnings and economic releases. The stock market, which had seen some of its froth removed earlier this month, is back in overbought territory once again, especially the Dow, we sense, and possibly ripe for a second round of profit taking should efforts to climb past 1,880 in the Standard and Poor's 500 Index meet with some resistance. Stay tuned. - Harvey S. Katz

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.